Social care providers slam 'dangerous' axing of crucial PPE fund

Scottish Care criticised the decision as 'regressive, unhelpful and positively dangerous' amid rising Covid cases.

Social care providers slam ‘dangerous’ axing of crucial PPE fund iStock
New guidance on PPE funding comes into effect on July 1.

Social care providers have criticised a “dangerous” decision by the Scottish Government to axe a crucial fund for personal protective equipment (PPE) as Covid cases continue to rise.

Public Health Scotland guidance states PPE including face coverings should still be worn when delivering care but the funding won’t be there soon to back up that need.

Scottish Care has also warned that many providers are struggling to plug a widening financial gap amid soaring inflation and a thirty-fold increase in the cost of vital items such as aprons, masks and visors since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Scottish Government currently covers additional costs “relating to remobilisation and adherence to public health measures” including staffing, PPE, infection, prevention and control, and the Social Care Staff Support Fund.

That fund, which allows employers to claim costs incurred if staff have been unable to work due to Covid-19, will remain until the end of September, along with access to local PPE hubs.

But new guidance – which goes live on July 1 – says the Scottish Government will now only cover additional costs associated with Covid-19 testing and vaccination.

It means Covid costs like PPE will be axed for adult social care providers, meaning they will have to foot the bill themselves.

As a result, Alyson Vale, who works at Abbotsford care home in Kirkcaldy, has been stockpiling PPE ahead of the changes being introduced.

But – with eight homes across Fife -they only have contingency for two weeks and fear smaller homes could soon be put out of business as costs mount.

Ms Vale told STV News: “Our costs have skyrocketed over the last three years compared to where they were before. So that additional funding was really vital to help us maintain a sustainable business.

“We’re still going through the same amount of PPE, including wearing face masks every day in care homes, so there definitely needs to be a change in the way we’re funded in order to support the increased costs.”

It comes as Covid cases continue to rise in the community, with the latest figures showing almost 700 care home staff and residents across Scotland have the virus.

Industry leaders say it’s the worst possible time for the funding to be cut.

Dr Donald Macaskill, chief executive of Scottish Care, told STV News: “Of all the steps taken, this is regressive, unhelpful and positively dangerous.

“The way care homes are paid to support somebody is based on the use of PPE before the pandemic, when it was probably less than one pound per resident per week. It’s now an average of £20-30 per resident, per week, in many care homes; that’s a huge difference to make up.”

The Scottish Government says the funding was always time limited, and other costs like testing and vaccinations will continue to be covered.

A spokesperson said: “With high levels of vaccination and new treatments, we’re working to ensure that the care home residents have the highest level of protection possible, while ensuring that care homes can remain open to visitors.

“Infection prevention and control measures to prevent spread and manage a range of infections are common practice in care homes and will remain of upmost importance during Covid-19 outbreaks, in the same way as they do for other infectious pathogens such as influenza outbreaks.

“Both the current local PPE hub arrangement and the Social Care Staff Support Fund are being extended until 30 September, 2022, and financial support arrangements related to testing and vaccinations will continue until 31 March, 2023.

“In addition, the Government has invested an additional £124m recurrently into care at home and provided £200m to uplift pay for ASC workers in commissioned services to a minimum of £10.50 per hour.”